SEATTLE (AP) — A policy in Seattle aimed at reducing evictions after the city’s moratorium on evictions ended has been struck down by the Washington State Court of Appeals.
The Seattle Times reports on an ordinance passed by the City Council in May 2020 that would allow tenants who are in arrears on rent and face eviction to file a defense in court six months after the end of the moratorium, if they certify themselves that they got into financial difficulties and could not pay the rent.
City leaders pointed out that the rule is a key to the city’s breakout from a nearly two-year ban on almost all evictions. As they let the moratorium on evictions expire on February 28, Mayor Bruce Harrell and members of the Seattle City Council named a number of city tenant protection measures, including the six-month rule to help vulnerable tenants remain housed when evictions resume.
In a written decision Monday, the appeals court upheld other city protections but said the six-month eviction defense “deprives landlords of their property interests without due process by not giving them an opportunity to verify the accuracy of a tenant’s self-certification in financial distress.” .
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The lawsuit also challenged the city’s ban on evictions during the winter months and a law that allows tenants to pay off pandemic-related debt in installments. A King County Superior Court judge upheld all but a small portion of the statutes last year. The Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s decision but added the ruling against the six-month rule.
The Rental Housing Association of Washington, which represents landlords and has sued the city over rent regulations, said in a statement, “We are grateful for the court’s decision stopping the cycle of debt for housing providers and residents struggling amid Seattle’s ongoing COVID-19 Ban on eviction.”
Prosecutors did not immediately say whether they plan to apply for a review of the case in the state’s top court.
The Rental Housing Association said it will “continue to investigate our issues with Seattle’s winter eviction ban.”
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